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GARDINER — A fire ravaged multiple businesses near the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park here Tuesday night, sending up smoke that hung in the air well into the following day.

No one was seriously injured in the fire, but it gutted the Two Bit Saloon, Yellowstone Raft Company, Rosie’s Pizza and Rosie’s Bistro. Fire crews knocked down Red’s Blue Goose Saloon to keep the blaze from burning farther down the row of businesses in front of the park.

Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler said sometime around 3 p.m. on Tuesday a person ran out of the Two Bit Saloon on Second Street and Main Street, and yelled at a deputy passing by that a fire had started inside the restaurant. He said the deputy ran in with fire extinguishers.

“(He) tried to do what good he could with it, but it was already rolling at the point and we couldn’t get it stopped,” Bichler said.

A deputy suffered minor smoke inhalation.

Law enforcement evacuated the neighboring buildings. Bichler said the fire spread to Yellowstone Raft Company, which shares the building with the saloon, and Red’s Blue Goose Saloon and Rosie’s Pizza. The fire was contained to those businesses. Bichler said the buildings are complete losses.

Bichler said authorities made the decision to tear down the Blue Goose Saloon to stop the fire around 7 p.m. on Tuesday. He said there was some concern that the fire would spread to nearby businesses and potentially jump across the road into Yellowstone National Park.

“Obviously the fear of the fire getting into the grass into the park,” he said, “and then setting the park on fire.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Bichler said the deputy who ran into the building indicated that the fire appeared to be coming from a back kitchen.

On Wednesday, crews kept spraying water on remaining hot spots. Debris from the buildings was strewn about. Tourists visiting the park were still around, hanging out on the patio of Iron Horse Bar and Grill, taking photos of the river and walking in and out of the other businesses. Traffic headed to the park was detoured onto Stone Street.

Sunlight shined into Yellowstone Raft Company where the roof had collapsed. Two Bit Saloon’s interior was charred from the fire, but the roof was still intact.

A pile of wood, insulation and metal sat front of where the Blue Goose Saloon used to be. On Facebook, the family who owns the saloon said they were devastated and shocked by the fire, but grateful that no one was seriously injured. The post said the family felt lucky to live in Gardiner and asked people to share their memories of the saloon with the hashtag #greattimesatthegoose.

“We felt the strength and compassion of the brave people in our community that came together to try and save our businesses that are so special to so many of us,” the post read.

Eric Hua, a tourist, was staying at the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge across the street from the fire and called 911 when he saw the building smoking. He said he could see the fire start in what appeared to be the kitchen of the Two Bit Saloon and then spread to the other buildings.

“No one evacuated until, like, 5 o’clock when it started raging,” Hua said.

By that time, he said, he and his family had packed their things in anticipation of being evacuated. The family watched firefighters battle the blaze near their van, across the road from the fire.

Kari Bondra, owner of Yellowstone Perk and Gardiner Pharmacy, next door to the Blue Goose Saloon, said the pharmacy was open when the fire started. An employee in the back room saw the fire through a window and evacuated the employees immediately.

Fire officials demolished the Blue Goose to stop the fire from spreading to Bondra’s pharmacy. The pharmacy now has significant smoke and water damage, but she said she was grateful firefighters stopped it from burning her shop down.

“The firefighters fought like hell to save it,” Bondra said, “and they saved it.”

Bondra isn’t sure how long the pharmacy will be closed. The fire knocked out power lines. She said she was trying to figure out when electricity would get restored so she access her clients’ information.

“I’m trying to figure out what to do with all the pharmacy files for the customers because they can’t get their prescriptions right now,” Bondra said.

Jack Sandusky, owner of Yellowstone Pizza Company was on his way out to grab arugula from a store when he saw the fire. He initially thought it was his building on fire. When he learned it was the Two Bit Saloon, he said “it was much worse of a situation” because large propane tanks sit in the alley between the saloon and other buildings.

He and another man who owns a tractor rushed to remove the tanks. Sandusky said the man’s son hooked the tanks to the tractor and the man pulled them out one at a time.

“Those tanks would have blown before they got this under control,” Sandusky said.

After removing the propane tanks, Sandusky jumped on Yellowstone Perk’s roof with garden hoses. He could see the fire licking the walls of what used to be the Blue Goose Saloon as he sprayed it with water.

Sandusky let firefighters get on top of his rooftop patio with fire hoses to try to put out the blaze. His employees evacuated about 50 people from inside.

Sandusky stayed on top of the roof until he inhaled too much smoke and had to be taken to the hospital.

At the hospital, doctors told Sandusky that he had minor smoke inhalation and that his blood pressure had skyrocketed.

“Losing everything you worked for your entire life is a little more scary,” said Sandusky, of the situation. “We managed to stop it.”

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Freddy Monares can be reached at or at 406-582-2630.

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